Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Guidance Document Change: Every day, throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, educators and school leaders work to ensure that all students have an opportunity to receive a high-quality education. As a part of that work, educators strive to meet the individual needs of all students entrusted to their care, and teachers work to create educational environments where all students thrive. The Virginia Department of Education (the “Department”) recognizes that each child is a unique individual with distinctive abilities and characteristics that should be valued and respected. All students have the right to attend school in an environment free from discrimination, harassment, or bullying. The Department supports efforts to protect and encourage respect for all students. Thus, we have a collective responsibility to address topics such as the treatment of transgender students with necessary compassion and respect for all students. The Department also fully acknowledges the rights of parents to exercise their fundamental rights granted by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children. The Code of Virginia reaffirms the rights of parents to determine how their children will be raised and educated. Empowering parents is not only a fundamental right, but it is essential to improving outcomes for all children in Virginia. The Department is mindful of constitutional protections that prohibit governmental entities from requiring individuals to adhere to or adopt a particular ideological belief. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees religious freedom and prohibits the government from compelling speech that is contrary to an individual’s personal or religious beliefs. The Department embarked on a thorough review of the Model Policies Guidance adopted on March 4, 2021 (the “2021 Model Policies”). The 2021 Model Policies promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools. The 2021 Model Policies also disregarded the rights of parents and ignored other legal and constitutional principles that significantly impact how schools educate students, including transgender students. With the publication of these 2022 Model Policies (the “2022 Model Policies”), the Department hereby withdraws the 2021 Model Policies, which shall have no further force and effect. The Department issues the 2022 Model Policies to provide clear, accurate, and useful guidance to Virginia school boards that align with statutory provisions governing the Model Policies. See Code of Virginia, § 22.1-23.3 (the “Act”). Significantly, the 2022 Model Policies also consider over 9,000 comments submitted to the Department during the public comment period for the 2021 Model Policies.
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10/26/22  10:37 pm
Commenter: Arlington mom

Strongly oppose - unnecessary and counterproductive

Trans rights are human rights. This policy is a huge step backward for Virginia and for tolerance. When did we become so afraid of others? It is critical that all children have an opportunity to be accepted for who they are, and these policies tell some children that they are just wrong or unwanted. The policy is unnecessary, contributes to an overall climate of intolerance toward LGBTQ+ people, and fosters a moral panic that rests on no evidence.  What it will do is harm children who need to be affirmed. It will also harm their friends and peers, who will learn to deny someone's basic humanity.  It contributes to a real dehumanization of trans and queer people that is actively dangerous and will lead to more bullying and violence. It protects no one and solves no real problems while causing many. 

These model policies also purport to support parents rights - but in fact they undermine them. I am raising my children to be independent and assert their needs. This includes the ability to make decisions to work with trusted adults on issues that are important to them. they need ot learn to trust themselves and to explore. School is for expanding the mind - in areas like science, math, art, and growing into the amazing young people they will be. Artificially stifling this under the guise of parental rights - when it is so clear that parents are not always safe and supportive - is fundamentally counterproductive.  As a parent, I have the right to have my child treated with dignity and support, no matter how they may present now or in the future. 

I urge the state to rescind this draft and retain the prior model policy, which was far more inclusive, practical, and appropriate. 

CommentID: 202571